Each year, for the upcoming winter and summer seasons, independent industry publications and testing organizations conduct independent research of tires’ performance meant to help motorists with choosing their next set of tires because all they have left to do then is use the provided information correctly.
Twice a year, getting together the results of numerous tests, we determine the best tires of the season.
Having covered in the two previous publications the best spiked and studless winter tires of the Scandinavian type 2019/2020, we are completing this series of articles by determining the best European tires designed to be used in mild winter conditions.
Too many tests, too few new models
It is the tires designed for mild European winters that got maximum attention from the tests groups in 2019 — 17 tests of tires of this type were conducted.
Totally, the tests involved 98 models from 60 tire brands, which does not cover all of the season’s newcomers, this being quite a deplorable fact: we would really like to see the performance by, let’s say, Goodyear UltraGrip 9+, Dunlop SP Winter Sport 500, Toyo Observe S944, Nexen Winguard Snow’G 3 and Pirelli P Zero Winter.
But then again, even without these new models, the tire ranking 2019/2020 significantly changed. A few shifts occurred even in the top league.
Info!Our review of the best winter tires of the European type includes the models that were able to score places from first to third with appropriate awards. Chiefly, these are premium class tires, and for this reason, thinking about the motorists, whose budget is far from unlimited, we decided to slightly widen the range of options and also covered the models that came as close as possible to the winners pedestal.
Renewing its assortment range in 2019, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company nailed it: the UltraGrip Performance Plus model as an upgrade to UltraGrip Performance Gen-1 brought this tire maker maximum return on investment in the form of awards literally in every test that involved this new model.
Hitting the top lines of the tests with random precision, this model was able to score the title «best European winter tire 2019/2020», thus slightly ousting the product of Continental AG from the Pantheon of the tire world.
The leadership group
So, what about the predecessor of the new champion? The Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen model managed to stay in the leadership group, slightly improving its results compared to last year, even taking into account its eighth place in the final standings of the test conducted by Teknikens Värld (third in the subgroup), which it shared with the spiked Michelin X–Ice North 4. We hope that everyone will agree that this is pleasant vicinity, especially in view of the fact that XIN4 is one of the top spiked tire models.
At the same time, the version engineered for city SUVs — Goodyear UltraGrip Performance SUV Gen-1 — could not fully use its one and only chance. The fourth place.
The Continental WinterContact TS 860 tire, which hitherto held the leading position for two winter seasons (2017/2018 and 2018/2019), began to slightly «give way» under the powerful onslaught of the new Goodyear model. TS 860 made a clean sweep of the season’s largest test conducted by Auto Bild, the L’Argus test for premium-class models, and the test done by Poland’s Motor magazine.
In addition, it was pronounced to be the best studless European tire in the mixed test performed by Teknikens Värld. We are emphasizing that this test involved both European and Scandinavian tires, and the fifth (out of 18) place scored by WinterContact TS 860 must be considered to be quite an achievement. There is no denying the fact that this model from the German brand is superb, yet, in view of the fact that it scored a few non-prize places, we cannot called it the leader of the season the way we did two or three years ago.
Parallel to that, the asymmetric S-modification of Continental WinterContact TS 860, which features the Self Supporting Runflat (SSR) system, only came the fourth in the Auto Bild Sportscars test.
However, designed for high-performance passenger cars, WinterContact TS 850 cars with a «P» at the end did not fail the German brand and showed generally decent results. It topped the ranking of the Sport Auto publication, and scored bronze in the Auto Bild Allrad test.
Another tire that seems to hit the target this year is Dunlop Winter Response 2, which repeated its last year’s success in the ADAC tests. Tested in the 185/65 R15 fitment for compact cars, it convinced the test experts in its extreme reliability on snow, wet pavement, and dry asphalt, and, hence, in being solely worthy of the first prize. A pleasant bonus for the motorists, who will choose to pay attention to these tires, will become their high fuel efficiency.
The Bridgestone tires oftentimes do not even claim the top positions in the tournament brackets, let alone any awards. However, yet another new model of winter 2019/2020 could break this strange, even if time-honored, tradition. It literally just exploded the tire world, winning gold in the Hungarian Autonavigator test, and two silver awards from the German test groups of Auto Bild Allrad and AMS.
According to the results of the large Auto Bild test, the Blizzak LM005 model was rated as «Exemplary», even though it only scored the fifth place. However, this did not stop Bridgestone from announcing worldwide that it became the absolute leader among the tire makers in the winter season 2019/2020 by the results of all of the Auto Bild tests.
And now let’s get on to the tires whose performance will make a lot of our readers change their opinion not only about their quality but about this tire maker on the whole, who is steadily climbing up the ladder towards the top ten, judging by the sales volumes. This is India’s Apollo Tires.
The Apollo Aspire XP Winter model in size 215/60 R17 got the «best winter tire» status from the test group of Auto Bild Allrad, while the experts of Auto Bild expressed their high opinion with an «exemplary» verdict. In addition, they gave this European-type studless tire model the name of «Eco Master», honoring its high fuel efficiency.
The product of this brand is not the only success of Apollo Tire, in the same large test conducted by Auto Bild its tire Vredestein Wintrac Pro also got much acclaim from the test experts, which falls in line with the high opinions of Germany’s other industry publications that determined the best sports winter tires of the season 2019/2020.
Let’s get back to the well-known and reputed brands, though. The Goodyear UltraGrip 9 model, which has been on the market for five years already, even in spite of the fact that the company has renewed its range, still arouses the interest of various test groups. Tested in the popular size 205/55 R16 last year, it collected an impressive «harvest» of medals of different value, which included gold in the ADAC test.
In 2019, UltraGrip 9 in the same size was able to justify its claims for entering the leadership group; however, this time around, the ADAC experts, who decided to test these tires in a smaller size, were not quite satisfied with them.
The Kleber Krisalp HP3 model, a full analog of BFGoodrich g-Force Winter 2 made it into the final, and tried to compete on a par with the top league tires in the Auto Bild tests. Even though it did not quite succeed, this tire is still worthy of praise, which is confirmed by the ADAC test group that put Krisalp HP3 on the second stair of its winners pedestal in the test of winter tires for compact passenger cars.
Right out of the blue, our improvised hit parade of the best European winter tires features the Uniroyal MS Plus 77 model, which won silver in the Auto Bild Sportscars test. While tested in a smaller size — 225/45 R17 — it came only the tenth (out to 20), but the expert team of Auto Bild was still satisfied with its performance, and gave it a «Good» verdict.
As for the Autocenter test experts, they were not quite as impressed with the model MS Plus 77 in size 205/55 R16, and this contradiction is something that the motorists will have to handle on their own, choosing which of the two publications they are inclined to trust more.
The Michelin Alpin 6 model, available retail for more than a year already, started to get actively involved in the tests only in 2019. And, it must be noted, it did that with a fair amount of success, scoring a pool of four bronze medals, plus a fifth place out of 18 (the second place among the tires of the European type) in the mixed test done by Teknikens Värld, which it shared with the spiked tire Gislaved Nord*Frost 200.
The «Alpine» Michelin tires of the fifth generation did not drop out of competition, as some might think. According to the results of the all-rounded test, which involved 13 models of various price brackets ranging from 210 to 610 Euros per set, they were thoroughly recommended by the test experts of the German publication Auto Zeitung.
Another Michelin tire that was also spotted in the tests of the winter season 2019, was the Pilot Alpin PA4 model in size 255/35 R19. The experts of Auto Bild Sportscars rated it as «good», but only placed it on the fourth place in the final standings.
The Dunlop Winter Sport 5 model, which scored the first place in the large test done by Germany’s Auto Bild in 2018, came crashing to the ground this year, falling down to the 16th position. Generally, however, it was able to keep up last year’s performance, just as the Dunlop Winter Sport 5 SUV tire was.
Now let’s get on to the tires of one certain Italian brand, whose 45% of shares belong to China’s national chemical corporation ChemChina. Now let’s get on to the tires of one certain Italian brand, whose 45% of shares belong to China’s national chemical corporation ChemChina. Out of the two Pirelli models that attracted the testers’ attention, the better performance was demonstrated by the Cinturato Winter model, which, it must be said, made a considerable progress in comparison with its inconsistent performance in the tests of previous years.
At the same time, Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 was interesting to a larger number of experts. Most of the time, however, they were of the same opinion — this tire delivers just an average performance. The sole exception was the Auto Zeitung test that brought this model a «thoroughly recommended» verdict and the fifth place in the final standings. Still, the Winter Sottozero 3 model definitely does not belong in the leadership group — at best, its place is on the bench.
Besides Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, we also placed on the sidelines those models that, while scoring no prize places, frantically tried to attract the testers’ attention, and came close to the winners pedestal at least once.
The winter model Hankook Winter i*Cept RS2 W452, which has been manufactured since 2015, looks more and more like a pilot that has been shot down. The only publication that confidently recommends it in the 17-inch fitment is Germany’s Auto Bild. In smaller sizes, the safety level that it ensures on winter roads is rated by the testers as no higher than satisfactory.
Hankook W452 is joined on the sidelines by its «brother model»’ Hankook Winter i*Cept evo2 W320. Falling short of being called the best, it still proved to be a power to be reckoned with in all of the sports tire tests of the seasons.
The Toyo Snowprox S954 model debuted in 2017 tests, and quite unsuccessfully. Quite possibly, this explains its absence from the comparative tests of 2018, which seemingly covered up the model’s past failures, and in 2019 it finally got the desired attention from the experts, who, on the other hand, were left unimpressed by its comeback. The model did not even make it past the elimination round of the large Auto Bild test.
Debica Frigo HP2 is one of the few representatives of the economy segment that quite regularly does make it into the final round of the large test organized by Germany’s Auto Bild, yet in 2019 this model nearly dropped to the very last place, being saved from that disgrace by a Kumho model, both of them scoring a «conditionally recommended» verdict.
At a glance, it might appear that the tire is doing pretty badly, but if we look into the details of the test, we will see that the performance of Frigo HP2 is better than that of some premium-class models.
The much-acclaimed German quality also did not pass by Fulda Kristall Control HP2. Although it does fall short of its own last year’s version, the test experts from various countries are still inclined to consider it to be quite an adequate and safe option for using in mild winter conditions.
As for the Gislaved Euro*Frost 6 model, it was solely included in our ranking thanks to the obscure Autocenter test that we mentioned several times earlier. According to ADAC, this tire is quite an average one, and, if we are to look at it from the standpoint of the Auto Bild test, it falls slightly short even of the medium level: this tire did not make it to the final because of its long braking distance on wet pavement, not being able to «pull through» even to the measurements of snow braking performance.
Nokian WR D4…. If we are not to take into account the opinion of the expert group of the French L’Argus publication, but, wait, why should we not take it into account — after all, it came the last of all of the premium-class tires in that test anyway — the performance delivered by WR D4 will be just as inconsistent and chaotic as it was during the recent years. At the same time, in view of the fact that this tire does not seem to score any prizes at all, it looks like it’s on its way out.
Mishaps of the tests
The next three models are characterized by their uniquely inconsistent results. Each of them did score a prize, yet their performance in other tests makes one question their right to even stay on the bench.
We will start off with a new model of the season from Nokian, the northernmost tire maker. Its WR Snowproof, meant to solidify the brand’s position in Central Europe, topped the ranking of Ukraine’s Autocenter test, which happened due to a very peculiar calculation formula, somehow dominated by the tire’s ice performance.
Another interesting fact is that the test groups other publications did not rate Nokian’s four-year effort to create this new model nearly as high: the rankings oscillate between «good» and «satisfactory». Looking at such controversial results scored by Nokian WR Snowproof in various tests, we name this studless winter tire of the European type to be the biggest disappointment of the season 2019/2020.
Another «accidental» gold winner of the season is Barum Polaris 5, which headed the tournament bracket of the test performed by the Czech motoring publication Autoklub CR in collaboration with the Slovakian Autozurnal. The test solely involved tires of the economy segment, the performance by Polaris 5 being used as reference. When the results were summed up, it turned out that for the Czech this model stays not only the local symbol of tradition, but quality as well.
If the extremely northern calculation formula (the weight of the ice performance being 40%) makes is turn our blind eye to the results shown by this model in two Autocenter tests, everything that will be left to assess its performance will be the test conducted by Autonavigator — the seventh place out of 20. At the same time, Barum Polaris 5 was not able to make it past the qualification round in the large Auto Bild test.
Quite unexpectedly, in 2019, the testers of various publications switched from Kumho WinterCraft WP51 to Kumho WinterCraft WP71, which, taking advantage of this circumstance, quickly snatched the second place in the test of budget tires conducted by the motoring club of the Czech Republic. Otherwise, its achievements seem to be pretty vague, especially considering the fact that the list of its rivals includes premium class models, both in Auto Bild and Auto Bild Sportscars tests.
For Kormoran Snow, a third-level subsidiary of Michelin, winning bronze in the test performed by the Czech motoring club was quite an achievement. And not only for this model, but also for Riken Snow and Orium/Strial/Tigar/Taurus Winter, which are essentially clones of this budget-friendly winter tire.
The best commercial winter tires 2019
As for the winter tires designed for light trucks and minivans, the prize-winning trio of this season’s only commercial tire test, performed by ADAC, looks like this: Continental VanContact Winter, Pirelli Carrier Winter, and Michelin Agilis Alpin.
Even here, however, it was not without India’s Apollo. Its Vredestein Comtrac 2 Winter model scored the fourth line of the tournament bracket, leaving behind 11 other contestants.
The victory of the European model Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus left Continental AG devoid of the opportunity to make a hat trick in this season in terms of scoring the «best tire» title in all of the three categories. As soon as Continental finally developed its new model that pulled the nose at the Finns, the Americans opened a new front. As we can see, in the new century Germany is still unable to do battle on several fronts at once.
One way or another, in 2020 it’s already going to be Goodyear that will be tackling the challenge of proving its «best winter tire» status.
Two motoring publication (Ukrainian and Czech) conducted two tests, the results of which are clearly at odds with the overall picture. This has to do with the special way of forming the competition lineup, as well as with special (not to say strange, considering the intended purpose of the tested tires) formula for calculating the final points that affects tremendously the final ranking.
The pool of the best winter tires 2019/2020 so far chiefly consists of premium-class models, yet medium-class tires are breathing down their necks — first of all, due to the intense competition in this segment that becomes more and more apparent each year.
If you need the best studless winter tires with a well-balanced performance on snow and asphalt, then you will most definitely have to be ready to empty your wallet. However, if we are to place our focus on wet pavement, more affordable options become available. The most important thing is to make sure that you are certain about the specific characteristics that matter in your specific case.